Courtesy of Emily Tarleton
Emily Tarleton is an assistant professor at NVU-J and serves as the co-chair for the environmental and health sciences department. She has recently published research in “Nutrients,” a peer-reviewed open access journal, on magnesium’s role in preventing depression.
What is your obsession?
My dogs. I’m obsessed with my dogs. They’re both old. They’re 14 and 16. I’ve had them their entire lives. So, at this point they basically get whatever they want.
What are their names?
Lyle and Petal, like a flower petal.
What are their personalities like?
They have very opposite personalities. So, the older one, he is like a little old curmudgeon, he’s like a little old man, he sleeps all day. Everything annoys him, and he doesn’t like to play. He likes other people, but he doesn’t like other dogs. And then the 14-year-old, she’s just happy-go-lucky. She loves everything – loves to eat, loves to run around and basically annoys the other dog. They have a typical sibling relationship.
What is the thing you love most about yourself?
I like that I am able to stay on task. I developed that skill over time. So, I’m kind of proud of my ability now to when I sit down to get something done, I can focus and get it done, and that allows me to feel more productive during the day.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is seeing how things change. So, that’s one of the reasons I like research so much, is that things are constantly changing with new information. And that applies to everything in life. I love to watch students change and grow over the years and develop their own interests. I like to see just what’s happening in the community and what’s changing. I volunteer with Meals on Wheels, and when we have new people volunteering and a new director, things grow and change. My classes too, I like updating classes with the newest information, to keep everything relevant. And it just amazes me how much work people do to keep things changing and improving over time.
What steered you in the direction of nutritional research?
I was doing Clinical Nutrition and was transitioning to a new avenue of work. And this opportunity came up to work not only as a clinical dietitian, but also as a research dietitian. So, it was at a cardiovascular clinic, and they were sort of 50/50. 50% just seeing patients, doing clinical work, but also 50% doing research. And I hadn’t really been exposed to that all that much, but I thought it was a great next step for me. I was at the beginning of my career, and I just really loved it. It just opened up this new world to me of everything that’s happening in the background of healthcare. We think, “here’s the recommendations,” but what’s the information that backs up our recommendations for how we care for patients, and how we live our lives, what are our best health behaviors to help us live longest and be healthy?
And so that really is what drove me and then being able to work with different groups of people and also working with people who volunteer for research studies is really rewarding, because we’re doing things so that they feel like people care… Right now, I’m looking at depression. People are just really thankful that somebody cares and that they want to learn more and try to help them. So that’s really rewarding.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Well, this, I’m sure there’s others that – you know, you’re always traumatized by something. And so, when I was a senior in college, I went to Plattsburgh, and I was a nutrition major. And I can’t remember which semester it was, but I was invited to talk on our local, campus TV show. And they wanted to talk about nutrition, and they had me, just on the fly, draw the food guide pyramid, which is now changed to my plate, but at the time it was the food guide pyramid. And I was nervous. I was on TV, and they were like, “quickly draw this,” and I completely left out dairy. I just didn’t even put it on the food guide pyramid. And I didn’t really realize it until afterward. And then it just felt like the culmination of my entire college career being in nutrition, and I can’t even remember what the food groups are. Because a local, campus community, they play things over and over, so people saw that a lot.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Well, because I’m a dietician, a guilty pleasure will have to involve food. So, I would say probably tater tots. I really like tater tots. With lots of ketchup.
If you could choose, what would your last meal be?
I think probably fish and chips. That’s probably a comfort meal for me. And it’s one thing that – you can definitely get a bad fish and chips for sure, and especially in Vermont. But fried food, lots of it. I like sauces, too. So between ketchup and tartar sauce that might do it for me.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
I don’t know. I have two ways of thinking about this. One is, I think I would like to be a horse, because I think they have great personalities, and they are strong and athletic and can roam around and do lots of fun things. Although, for the most part, they’re interacting with humans, which as an animal, I’m not sure I would want to do that as much. Maybe if I was a wild horse. But that’s what I think I like. The idea when I think of horses is sort of that freedom of being able to be strong and athletic but also smart, and a lot of them have just amazing, quirky personalities.
On the topic of horses – would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or ten duck-sized horses?
Probably the one, just because I think I would be better focused and maybe have a shot.
Who would you want to be for a day?
The older one that doesn’t really care about anything?
That’s right. And he basically gets hand-fed and lays on his own chair all day.
What do you think other people think about you?
Oof. Oh, God. Well, I think people probably think I’m a bit of an overachiever at times, because I do like to be really productive and get a lot of things done, and I’m always striving to do new things. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about my interactions with people is that, once they have a one-on-one conversation with me, they feel very differently about me than they do when they just see me from afar. So, I think the way people see me is sort of maybe an overachiever, professional, very type-A, which I am. But, on a one-on-one personal level, I do like to have fun and hang out and do lots of other things besides work.
What are some of your hobbies?
I like to knit, so that’s something I took up for the long, Vermont winters. So, I do like to knit. I do a lot of paddling in the summer, a lot of swimming. Just being out in the water is one of my most favorite things. And then hiking. I actually don’t ski. I don’t snowboard, but I’ll do snowshoeing. So those are my big ones. A lot of people have the feeling that if you’re in Vermont in the winter, you have to do something outdoorsy or you’ll never make it, which is true for a lot of people, but I actually like the opportunity to just be cozy, sitting inside with a fire, watching a movie, knitting. It makes an excuse to not have to go out and do anything.
Have you knitted anything you’re especially proud of?
Well, I don’t actually know, really, because my biggest goal when I started knitting is – I do a lot of baby blankets. I have a lot of friends that have had kids over the years, and I have a lot of cousins, so I usually do baby blankets. And the biggest goal I have is for one of them to become a blankie, like a blanket that some kid just can’t give up. I don’t know if that’s happened. Nobody’s told me that it has. So, I’m still working at that.
Did you have a blankie when you were a kid?
Yes, I still have it. It’s in the closet.
What does it look like?
It’s a funky little – it’s all red on one side and then on the other, it’s flowers, and they’re like poppies. And it’s just all these little quotes like, “run through the flowers,” or “pick the poppies,” it’s very – who knows? That’s why I think it’s my goal, because who knows why a blankie turns into a blankie? There’s usually no rhyme or reason other than, maybe it’s soft, or the size, or, you know what I mean? But some kids have huge blankets that they carry around and others have this tiny little square.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I think it would have to be breathing underwater. I’ve always gone back and forth between flying and breathing underwater, but I just love the water, and I love to swim, so I think it has to be breathing underwater.
How did you come into your love for the water?
Well, I’d always liked to swim. We had a pool growing up or had neighbors who had pools. So, I always liked to swim, and our family vacations were always going to the beach… Also, I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to it is that the ocean just seems so – I also have a little bit of a fear of drowning. I think it’s very powerful. The ocean is very powerful. When you see those huge waves and tsunamis, it’s just incredible to me. It’s scary that there’s this power coming from the ocean, and that this water can just wipe us out. So, I think I have this love hate relationship with it. But I was always in the water growing up, and I think that’s why. And then, coming to Vermont, there’s just so many awesome places to go kayaking and canoeing in lakes and rivers, and in the summer, that’s just what you’ve got to do.